Using Interactive Visualization to Enhance Understanding of a Fisheries Model
Fishery management is the science of setting rules for governing fishing so that it is done in a sustainable manner. An ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) approach has been advocated to recognize ecosystems as the complex systems that they are. If EBFM is to be put into effect, then fishery managers require ecological models which take many factors into account to help them make management decisions. MS-PROD is one such model; it is a multi-species production model which forecasts the biomass of ten species of fish in the Gulf of Maine over 30 years. In the model, the biomass of each fish species depends on effects from harvesting and interactions with the other fish species. An interactive visualization to the model was designed and implemented to allow the user to investigate the impact of changes in fishing effort in real time. By combining time series with a network representation, this visualization shows the predicted biomasses of the fish, the changes in biomass that can result from changes in fishing effort, the causal relationships that help to explain the effects of changes in fishing effort, and the uncertainty of the model. An evaluation was conducted to compare four different methods for depicting the two types of causal relationships in the model---predation and competition---which found that representing those relationships with arc diagrams enhanced the understanding of the model. This visualization is a novel combination of features which may be a powerful tool that could assist fishery managers in making informed decisions.
Carmen St. Jean works in the Data Visualization Research Lab as a Research Assistant for Colin Ware. She is pursuing a master's degree in Computer Science and is expected to graduate in 2014. In 2010, Carmen graduated from UNH with a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Mathematics Computer Science and a minor in German. From March 2011 to August 2012, she worked on the nowCOAST project with John Kelley and Jason Greenlaw. Her hobbies include film photography, running, playing board games, traveling, and learning languages.